There are a few hours left of Giving Tuesday. It is a time to act to help those who are not as fortunate as you are and to support those who are working daily to make the world a better place. There are many ways to give; we hope that you will consider supporting our efforts to Wage Peace in Africa as a step toward eliminating the spread of violent extremism.
Yesterday’s tragic events at the Ohio State University once again remind us of the ease at which ideologically based extremism can effect youth and how dramatic is the reach of extremist groups through social media. In this case, a young man who had a future and every reason to be joyful was turned and taken based on the lure of extremist propaganda. Imagine the effect on youth who see no future and have little hope. Imagine if that one person was now hundreds of thousands. Without a concerted, sustained effort at the grass roots level – at the very communities where youth live — to prevent violent extremism from taking hold, peaceful communities will be lost, regional instability will ensue, and democracy and freedom will be at risk.
We at 72 Africa focus on preventing violent extremism in Africa through three principal measures. First: to aid individuals, groups, and communities in identifying the roots of conflict and working to resolve these conflicts peacefully. Second: to educate – especially education of youth who are the next generation of leaders at all levels, and who, if educated on ways to resolve conflict peacefully now, can act to dissuade violence as a means to resolution. Third, and often most importantly, is to invest in creating local environments that support and spawn entrepreneurial spirit, local economic development, and hope for a future. On the surface, these steps seem logical and obvious. Unfortunately, the bureaucracies of our governments and large philanthropic organizations are not structured to prevent crisis. Their pace and focus only allows them to address crises that have occurred. Organizations like ours are starting to make a difference worldwide in changing the focus of the approach to violent extremism from simply combatting (responding) to preventing. But we desperately need your help in this process.
You may be asking yourself why you should care about Africa? First, the demographics of Africa indicate that two patterns will emerge over the next decade. The first pattern is that many more African youth will come to the United States for education and employment, thus expanding significantly their impact on everything here from immigration to infrastructure. The other is that vastly more will be left in Africa facing decreasing economic prospects and shortages of resources, resulting in increased poverty and instability. These are prime seeds of radicalization to extremism. This leads me to the second emerging trend: the rise and expansion of violent extremist groups like ISIS, Boko Haram, and al-Shabab. This trend is already underway. Even in a country as notably stable as Ghana, ISIS recruiters are today traveling throughout the Northern Region in hopes of finding those youth who are tired of the conditions at the local level and are ready for change.
The fact is that unlike any other time before, what happens in Africa over the next decade now has a direct effect on our own national interests; from trade to resources to impending crises by violent extremist groups that will create a need to put troops on the ground. Taking our traditional approach to Africa or ignoring these signs is no longer an option. We need to change our approach and this change starts with your simple act of giving.
So, as the final hours of Giving Tuesday pass away, I ask you to consider us as your link to preventing violent extremism and giving youth a chance and a future. By doing so, you are also investing in our own national security. Please be generous.
The other gift that we ask you to consider is the gift of time and connection. Please consider spending your social media time this evening posting about our organization and encourage your networks to join in and support us. If you have friends or belong to companies or organizations that would find our mission appealing for their philanthropic endeavors, please consider telling them about us and putting us in contact with them. Our success will be determined by building sustainable funding that can react to emerging threats, and these contacts can go a long way in allowing us to achieve our goals.
Remember that the real secret to Giving Tuesday is that it takes you and your community to care and to act. Thank you.